Written by: Sarah Walker
Several years ago my husband and I were happily pastoring a church in southern Ontario. We loved our church dearly and were planning on raising our family there, planting our roots for many years. One day, out of the blue, both my husband and I sensed God calling our season at this church to an end. Not only did we feel like our job there was done, but we also felt strongly and clearly that this was to be a leap of faith – that God was calling us to resign before we looked at any other churches. We would resign, without having a job to go to.
As we shared our decision with our congregation, our friends and our family, we were met with a lot of confirmation and encouragement that we were on the right track, and that we had heard from God correctly. After resigning, right away we had two awesome churches very interested in us, and even in the midst of a housing market crash, our house sold almost instantly. As everything unfolded, there was no doubt that we were in God’s will – his favour showed us that!
Then things took a turn for the worst. Our house sale fell apart on closing day. Both churches that were interested in us (including one where we had been told, “We look forward to working with you!”) had a change of heart and withdrew from considering us. While we managed to salvage the house deal eventually (at a loss), we quickly found ourselves jobless, houseless, running out of money, and eventually found ourselves living in our generous parents’ basement.
What had happened to God’s favour? As days turned into weeks, and then weeks into months, our situation remained the same. We talked to many churches about working for them, but nothing felt quite right. We were frustrated. We had taken a huge leap of faith – and it appeared that we had failed. People we trusted and respected began saying things like, “You must have missed God’s will.” “Your discernment must have been off – maybe a good idea, but the wrong timing.” And then, what we heard most often: “When God is in it, everything just comes together and works out. So…God must not be in this.”
No one was harsh when they said things like this; we knew they cared for us, were praying for us, and were trying to help us figure out what to do next. This season of transition, sitting frustrated and confused and patiently waiting on God, ended up lasting almost a full year. Not at all what we had in mind many months earlier when we felt God say, “Trust me and move on…”! HAD we missed his will?
As we finally moved into our new church and had time to reflect on our journey, we came to the conclusion that we had been right where God wanted us to be. God taught us invaluable lessons during that season, broke us down, humbled us, and stretched our faith beyond what we thought possible! There was character built that couldn’t have been built any other way. He gave us more patience, and gave us the rest and refreshing we needed as we headed in to what would be a very fruitful but incredibly challenging season of ministry. Our marriage got much stronger, our connection to God got much deeper, and we were able to wrestle with and answer hugely important questions like, “What’s really important in life? What are we called to? Who are we in ministry? What does serving others look like? How much of a price will we pay in order to be in God’s will?”
We also had the pleasure of being used by God during this season to help many others find their own next position in ministry. My husband interviewed at several churches and would feel that it wasn’t the right fit for him, but he’d say, “You really should consider so-and-so, this could be a great fit!” Several pastoral families found God’s will, even as we were searching ourselves! This was something we could not have done if we didn’t take our big leap of faith, and we saw God’s grand purpose in all of it!
It’s a pretty common Christian attitude that says, “If God is in it, everything will work out,” implying that when we are in God’s will, it’s always easy. Sometimes, this is certainly true! There have been many times in my life where God has made every detail fall perfectly into place, quickly and easily. God can and does work that way!
However, I think we miss something when that ease is the litmus test in order to believe that God is in something. It’s unfair to assume that if circumstances don’t come easily, that God’s will has been missed or that mistakes have been made.
As we lead up to Easter, I’ve been thinking about Jesus, pleading with God in the Garden of Gethsemane, asking the Father if there is another way to save the world. He was despairing, feeling lost and alone, knowing that he was about to be ridiculed, lied about, beaten, whipped, and crucified, all to save us from our sins.
In the Garden, he struggles with walking out God’s will. Why? Because God’s will isn’t always easy. As Jesus obeyed God’s will and pressed on towards Calvary, we see that God’s favour doesn’t always look like blessing. But Jesus was never out of God’s will or his favour on the long journey to the cross.
Just before this journey started, Jesus told his disciples:
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
It’s not always easy, but God is always good! We are able to stand strong in our trials and our tough circumstances because God has promised us His peace. It is within that peace that we trust that God has a plan, and that as long as we keep our eyes on Him, and as long as we keep pressing on, that he is more than capable of seeing us through, as we pray for His will to be done in our lives!